Friday, December 13, 2013, 1:46pm
Introduction to BRAZIL
Date travelled: 29th June to 21st July 2004
Tour Operator: Sovereign
Salvador, the capital of Bahia, is a seaport situated between the Atlantic Ocean and All Saints (Todos os Santos) Bay. It is the state's largest city and the fourth largest in Brazil. Salvador is known as the greatest Afro-Brazilian city, where the music never stops and people rarely sleep. This is especially true during Carnival, usually February through March. More than anywhere else in Brazil, the African influence in the make-up of the Brazilian culture is readily visible in Salvador. The spicy local dishes are still called by their African names such as - caruru (shrimp dish with okra & peanuts) vatapa (Bahian shrimp dish) and acaraji (fried bean cake stuffed with shrimp).
Salvador is made up of both hill and valley and it is for this reason there are two main districts: Cidade Alta (Upper district) & Cidade Baixa (Lower district) districts of Salvador. We went on a guided walking tour of these districts including the area around Pelourinho which is heavily policed until late at night. Salvador has more of a problem with robberies & muggings than anywhere else in the north-east and it is recommended you take a guided tour of certain ares. Places to avoid are: the Lacerda elevator, the roads which connect the upper & lower districts and the Avenida do Contorno (the seafront road that runs north from the harbour is dangerous even in daylight hours)
The following day we left Salvador and boarded a flight westwards to Manaus. Most of the region is tropical rainforest in the middle of the Amazon Basin. On arrival at Manaus airport the heavens opened up and there was a tropical rainstorm. By the time we boarded our boat for a two-hour ride up the Rio Negro to Ariau Jungle Towers we were soaked through. The Ariau Jungle Towers are located 35 miles north-west from Manaus at the confluence of the Rio Negro and Ariau Creek. Built entirely at the level of the rainforest canopy, its towers are linked together by four miles of sturdy wooden catwalks.
We were greeted by drums & music played by local Indians when we arrived at the Towers which was quite a nice touch. Our accomodation was very basic comprising a bedroom with fan & bathroom with shower but no hot water. Hot water was available (at a ridiculous price) but it wasn't really necessary. It was so hot in the jungle that the cold water ran lukewarm and after a day of heat & 90% plus humidity, a lukewarm shower was more than welcome.
We stayed at Ariau Towers for two nights and during that time we went on a jungle walk where we saw a tarantula, we went piranha fishing and we both caught piranhas, attended an Indian ritual, visited a native village, and went alligator spotting at night which felt really strange because the only light was from the moon. One of our guides spotted an alligator (a Caymen really) in the water and leapt out of the canoe, caught the caymen and then dragged it into our canoe. Apparently the best time to catch caymen is in the dark. They can then be spotted easily in the beam of a spotlight because their eyes reflect in the light.
The following day (day 5) we arose early to take in the beautiful Amazonian sunrise before saying goodbye to the jungle and continuing our journey by boat and plane to Iguaš˙ Falls.
The Iguaš˙ Falls are located in the Iguaš˙ National Park, at the border of Brazil and Argentina. To see them properly, you must visit both sides. In Brazil you get the grand overview and in Argentina you get a closer look. The 275 falls are over 3 kilometers (2 miles) wide and 80 meters (260 feet) high, which makes them wider than Victoria, higher than Niagra, and more beautiful than either.
Our hotel was inside Iguaš˙ National Park, the only hotel on the Brazilian side, facing Iguaš˙ Falls and the view was spectacular. We took a tour of the falls on the Brazilian side, where you can get up close to the Falls via catwalks, before setting off for a day in Argentina to see the falls from the Argentinian side.
The falls are truly awesome and nothing could have prepared me for the incredible beauty of the powerful thundering water at 'Devils Throat'. Staring down into the 'Devils Throat' is one of the highlights of visiting the Falls. We returned to Brazil and the following day we went white-water rafting which literally took our breath away, soaking us through to our skin, despite wearing rain macs but was great fun! After the rafting we returned to our hotel to dry off and pack our suitcases for the next leg of our tour - Rio de Janeiro.
The district of Copacabana is nestled in a gorgeous bay surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and the spectacular Sugar Loaf and Corcovado mountains. The waterfront is 4 km long and bordered by a bicycle and jogging path. On Sundays and public holidays the beach road is closed to traffic and becomes one big leisure area.
Our first few days in Rio were spent relaxing since the weather was not the best for sight-seeing. We did visit the 'Hippy Market' and went to two football matches at the Maracana Football Stadium. Soccer is Brazil's favourite sport and the Maracana Stadium is one of the world's biggest football stadiums. On day five of our stay in Rio the weather improved and so we took the metro and spent the day exploring the bustling city centre in downtown Rio.
The next day we went on a Tropical Island tour which we had delayed until the weather improved. We travelled by bus for 90 minutes to a southern fishing village, called Itacurušß, where we boarded a schooner for the cruise to the island. The weather was lovely and we spent several hours on the island where we had lunch and generally 'chilled out'.
The weather continued to improve so we took the opportunity to visit Corcovado and Sugar Loaf mountains. Located atop the Corcovado mountain at a height of 2330ft. the statue, Christ the Redeemer, is one of the world's best known and most visited monument. There is a miniature train which runs through the steep Atlantic rainforest up to the foot of the statue and offers magnificent views of Rio from many different angles. After lunch we went on up to Sugar Loaf mountain which is accessible via a two-stage cable car. Afternoon is the best time to visit where the panoramic view fromthis unique 887-feet high belvedere is unrivalled and it is the only place from which one can view the whole of Copacabana beach.
On day eight of our tour of Rio we made the most of the sunshine and spent a relaxing day sunbathing and in the evening we went to the Plataforma Samba Show which is almost like a mini carnival on stage. If you like Las Vegas-style shows then it is worth paying a visit to Plataforma. There are two options: show only or show plus dinner. Be warned! The whole thing is over priced as are the drinks on offer during the show.
Our final jaunt in Rio was a guided tour of one of the many favellas (slums) that have sprung up over a number of years. It is not recommended to go into the favellas alone and definitely not at night. There are frequent gun battles between rival drug dealers and police so not a good place for tourists! We found that it was generally safe to visit most places in Rio as long as common sense prevails.
** Information on the travel pages was correct at the time of publishing. Passport & Visa information applies to UK citizens.